Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Safety for Kitty (and Doggy)

Our beloved Rigby, from Fort Hunt Animal Hospital in Alexandria, VA

Halloween can be a festive and fun time for children and families. But for pets? Let's face it, it can be a downright nightmare. Forgo the stress and dangers this year by following these 10 easy tips.

1. Trick-or-treat candies are not for pets.
All forms of chocolate -- especially baking or dark chocolate -- can be dangerous, even lethal, for dogs and cats. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures. And while xylitol toxicity in cats has yet to be established, it's better to be safe than sorry.

2. Don't leave pets out in the yard on Halloween.
Surprisingly, vicious pranksters have been known to tease, injure, steal, and even kill pets on Halloween night. Inexcusable? Yes! But preventable nonetheless.

3. Keep pets confined and away from the door.
Not only will your door be constantly opening and closing on Halloween, but strangers will be dressed in unusual costumes and yelling loudly for their candy. This, of course, is scary for our furry friends. Dogs are especially territorial and may become anxious and growl at innocent trick-or-treaters. Putting your dog or cat in a secure room away from the front door will also prevent them from darting outside into the night … a night when no one wants to be searching for a lost loved one.

4. Keep your outdoor cats inside several days before and several days after Halloween.
Black cats are especially at risk from pranks or other cruelty-related incidents. In fact, many shelters do not adopt out black cats during the month of October as a safety precaution.

5. Keep Halloween plants such as pumpkins and corn out of reach.
Although they are relatively nontoxic, such plants can induce gastrointestinal upset should your pets ingest them in large quantities. Intestinal blockage can occur if large pieces are swallowed. And speaking of pumpkins …

6. Don't keep lit pumpkins around pets.
Should they get too close, they run the risk of burning themselves or knocking it over and causing a fire.

7. Keep wires and electric light cords out of reach.
If chewed, your pet could cut himself or herself on shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

8. Don't dress your pet in a costume unless you know they'll love it.
If you do decide that Fido or Kitty needs a costume, make sure it isn't annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict movement, hearing, or the ability to breathe or bark and meow.

9. Try on pet costumes before the big night.
If they seem distressed, allergic, or show abnormal behavior, consider letting them go in their “birthday suit”. Festive bandanas usually work for party poopers, too.

10. IDs, please!
If your dog or cat should escape and become lost, having the proper identification will increase the chances that they will be returned. Just make sure the information is up-to-date, even if your pet does have one of those fancy-schmancy embedded microchips.

See entire article here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Midterm Grades are in for Kitty

Not all cats are equally skilled in all areas of the feline arts. If you share your home with multiple cats, you've probably noticed one cat might be a superior hider, while another is perhaps an expert in the realm of "helping" you with various projects around the house. Kitty may be naturally gifted in auditory talents. Out of a dead sleep, she'll hear the click of the dryer door closing, indicating the possibility of warm laundry on which to nap. Fluffy, on the other hand, sleeps like a rock, and only the sound of impending food is strong enough to rouse her from snoozeville. 
What if cats went to school to hone their skills in some of the more compulsory kitty crafts? What would a cat's report card look like? I have some ideas, along with possible teacher comments.

Kitty needs a hiding tutor.

1. Introduction to Obstruction

Teacher's comments: Pancake shows consistent effort in demonstrating the skills necessary to prevent humans from completing day-to-day tasks. He excels in extended lap-lounging and shows promise in the area of chair-jacking. I would, however, like to see a bit more practice in the area of computer keyboard obstruction. I am available after class if he'd like additional help. 

2. Alarm Clockery

Teacher's comments: Pancake excels at the skill of knowing exactly when to wake humans and the proper timing for pre-waking whining. On the final exam, I was impressed with his precision in walking across a human's full bladder exactly 30 minutes prior to feeding time. If he is interested, I would like to offer him a T.A. position next term.

3. Boxing Lab

Teacher's comments: Pancake scored well in all the practical exercises, but I'd like to have seen him really push himself into trying boxes of all sizes, including ones he thought were way to small for his frame. He seemed self-conscious of his size and did not venture beyond the safety of a shoebox. I would like to see him work on this issue at home. Please let me know if you need assistance locating small boxes -- we have a lending program at school.

4. Gift Wrapping 101

Teacher's comments: Pancake seemed to enjoy this class. During bow-stealing demonstrations, he often volunteered to assist. He worked well in his small group, which went on to score well in the final project: "5 Steps for Preventing a Human from Wrapping a Holiday Gift." I believe his high score in "Introduction to Obstruction" helped his efforts and interest in this course. I'd like to see him develop a greater comfort with gift boxes of all sizes (see Boxing Lab comments).

5. Bathe Your Neighbor

Teacher's comments: Pancake learned new bathing methods quite easily and worked well with his project partners. He showed particular talent in cleaning the inside of his partners' ears. His grasp was gentle, yet firm, and his work was thorough. He was also a patient recipient, even when his partner's technique was less than polished. I would recommend he register for the follow-up class, "Fight-Stop-Bathe-Stop-Fight," designed to help students with the constant back-and-forth cats often experience when play-fighting with another cat. The curriculum is intense, but I believe he can handle it. Let me know if you need a written recommendation.

6. Intermediate Hiding Techniques

Teacher's comments: Pancake consistently showed below-average effort and skills and this class. I offered to connect him with a tutor, but he refused. During classwork and tests, he demonstrated difficulty completely hiding his body; usually, a tail, ear, or paw was visible. During one pop quiz, the back half of his loafed form protruded from behind the file cabinet. I recommend he register for a summer course and practice with a tutor.

What grades would your cat receive on his report card? Tell us about it in the comments!

***See entire article here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What if You Worked with Kitty?

Sometimes coworkers become so comfortable with one another that one of them steps over the line of basic office etiquette. And sometimes they're just naturally rude. If cats worked human jobs, they'd probably possess some typically irritating workplace habits. They couldn't care less what we think of them, anyway -- why wouldn't that translate to the office environment?
Here are five annoying habits they would probably bring to the cubicle. 

1. Loud grooming

Can you, like, do that somewhere else?
You know those coworkers who clip their nails at their desks? You know that sharp, clippy sound that indicates a fingernail is flying (hopefully) into the garbage can? Ew. Once I saw someone in a nearby cubicle swipe a deodorant stick across his underarms. Of course, it was under his shirt, but still. Ew. Can we just move all grooming to the restroom? 
A cat would be the coworker who details her bottom so loudly that everyone in the adjoining department could hear the slurp-slurp-slurping. In important meetings, she'd start chewing her toes and scratching inside her ears, leaving everyone wondering if she'd brought ear mites into the office. Ew, ew.

2. Stealing food

Oh, man -- this is the worst. Even well-labeled food somehow gets snagged from the community refrigerator. What boundary-crossing rat fink steals someone else's lunch? This only happened to me once and I was devastated. It was Chinese takeout leftovers, and I was so looking forward to that garlic chicken. During inter-office conversations and meetings, I resisted the urge to sniff my coworkers' breath. That was a bad, bad day.
Cats would take your lunch and eat it right in front of you. That's how much they don't give a rip. Then those flippant felines would ask if we had any soy sauce. Egregious!

3. Extended breaks

A new bag of treats = extra long break.
Cats don't look at clocks and don't bother wearing watches. They have their own internal alarmthat tells them when mealtime happens, but that's about as far as it goes. In the workplace, cats would take breaks when they felt like it, even if they were in the middle of meeting an important deadline. They'd wander off with a bag of treats and chill in a sun puddle just as long as they pleased. Maybe they'd have a nap attack and wouldn't return to their desks for more than an hour. And of course, you'd be picking up all their slack. Typical.

4. Office supply theft

Hey -- that pen looks familiar!
Cats have no conscience when it comes to lifting something that doesn't belong to them. My cats love stealing my pens and batting them around on the floor. I'm certain cats would regularly raid the office supply closet. If you were to visit them in their home, you'd come face to face with a collection of ballpoint pens, paperclips and wadded up Post-it notes. And if you asked them about the items, they'd look at you as if you were crazy: "You didn't know I collect rare and interesting paper clips from around the world?" And then they'd kick the Staples box under the sofa.

5. Talkers

"Did you see Mona's new collar? What did you bring for lunch today? Do you have nail clippers?"
Have you ever worked with someone who just doesn't shut up? You know what I mean -- you hear them coming so you pick up the phone and pretend like you're on a call so they don't stop and talk to you. When do these people work? And the conversations are usually about mindless topics or an invitation to dish up some office gossip. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you should not gossip in the workplace. It always gets back to the person and, anyway, why would you want to be all catty like that?
Cats are naturally catty and would be command central for the office gossip mill. A cat would eavesdrop on personal conversations, hide in the corners of elevators and perch on the tops of toilets in the bathroom. They'd be anywhere good dirt would likely be shared. And then they'd take off and blab it to anyone who'd listen. You don't ever want to go to happy hour with a cat.
Would your cat be an awful cubicle mate? Tell us about it in the comments! 
**See the entire article here

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Human Foods that May Not be Good for Kitty

Cats like to eat. And sometimes they like to eat surprising things. I've had dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of people tell me that their cats like to eat melon or cantaloupe. Most of these people seemed convinced that they were the first person on earth whose cat had such an unusual craving.
If your cat likes melon, I hate to burst your bubble: It's not an unusual craving. But you may (or should) be wondering whether melon and cantaloupe are safe for cats to eat. We'll come to that in a moment.
Wild cats are obligate carnivores. That means they eat only prey animals. Note that I did not say they eat only meat. Organs, intestines, and the contents of their prey's intestines are crucial parts of their diet.
Domesticated cats were once obligate carnivores, but unnatural selection at the hands of humans is likely changing that. Most people don't feed their cats prey animals; modern cats generally eat cat food. Feral cats and cats in developing countries often subsist on human leftovers and garbage. Cats are nothing if not adaptable. The species is thriving even though its members are, by and large, not eating the diet of their ancestors.
However, when offering human food to cats, it's best to remember their carnivorous origins. In general, foods of animal origin are going to be OK. Plants may or may not be.
When offering human food to cats it's also wise to follow the advice of Aristotle: moderation in all things. (I would add the Barchas corollary: except for moderation itself, which should be enjoyed in wretched excess.) Even "safe" human foods can cause problems if they're given in excess. For the sake of this article, we will be discussing occasional small treats. None of the foods mentioned should be fed as exclusive diets.
Also remember that individual cats may have unique allergies to or intolerances of certain foods. The blanket generalizations that follow may not apply to all cats.

1. Meat

Small quantities of most meats are not likely to hurt cats. A little bit of chicken breast, hamburger, fish or turkey is likely to be palatable and harmless to your feline friend. Remember, however, that cold cuts can be high in sodium and should therefore not be offered in excess. And especially fatty things like turkey skin have the potential to cause upset stomach or pancreatitis.

Meat -- it's what you were made for. Cat and meat by Shutterstock.

2. Milk

The image of a cat lapping milk from a bowl is utterly iconic. What is less iconic is the image of the cat suffering blowout diarrhea a short while later. It turns out that some cats are lactose intolerant. Other cats can tolerate milk just fine. An occasional saucer of milk is unlikely to harm cats who are lactose tolerant, but goodness help the person who has to clean the litter box of a lactose intolerant cat who drinks milk.

3. Melons and cantaloupe

The many cats who enjoy these items do not seem to come to harm from them. But remember that they're relatively high in sugar and calories, so moderation is especially important. Melon seeds also have the potential to cause or contribute to foreign body obstructions, so make sure that your cat doesn't eat them.

4. Onions and garlic

Garfield's lasagne obsession did not merely make him obese and place him at risk of diabetes. The poor fellow also probably suffers from Heinz Body anemia. Cats have notoriously fragile blood cells. Onions and garlic contain oxidizing agents that can damage the cells. A tiny bit of bolognese sauce is not likely to kill a cat, but in general anything that contains onions or garlic should be avoided.

5. Grapes

These make better wine than cat food. Grapes by Shutterstock.
Grapes are notorious for causing kidney failure in dogs. And yes, I know that cats aren't little dogs, but they do have famously fragile kidneys. Nobody knows why grapes are dangerous to dogs' kidneys, but fears exist that they could pose a similar risk to cats. Therefore I can't sign off on feeding grapes to cats.

6. Mustard greens, collard greens, and kale

These plants also may (or may not) trigger Heinz Body anemia. They are not recommended because some experts believe they have the potential to pose a risk.

7. Spinach and swiss chard

These plants are high in oxalic acid, which some experts believe may contribute to the development of kidney and bladder stones. They are not recommended.

8. Lettuce

Lots of cats like to eat lettuce. Fortunately, most types of lettuce appear to be safe for cats.

9. Ice cream

Sure, you can have a little. Woman, cat, and ice cream by Shutterstock.
I have yet to see a cat come to harm after eating small amounts of ice cream.

10. Chocolate

Fortunately cats don't seem to crave chocolate in the same way as people, because it contains stimulants that are potentially toxic to them.

11. Other things that appear to be safe in small quantities

There are countless other items that cats seem to enjoy eating and that don't seem to hurt them (as long as Aristotle's rule is followed). Examples I have heard of include asparagus, tomatoes, french fries, bread, pickles, marshmallows, bugs, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, carrots and butter. I'd be curious to hear what unusual food items your cat enjoys.
**See the entire article here.